Saturday, January 16, 2010

Worst Music of the 2000s

Originally I was going to compose a list ranking the ten or twenty worst songs of the 2000s, but I soon realized the futility of this exercise. "My Humps" is the worst hit of the decade and probably the worst of all time, Stacey Ferguson, with or without her Black Eyed cohorts is a serious contender for the worst successful recording artist of all time and I have a hard time imagining a compelling case being made for anything else. After that certainty, such a list becomes completely overwhelming and forces arbitrary choices among essentially identical candidates ("Which Nickelback song is really the worst?"). So I've instead decided to consolidate hundreds of bad songs and artists into a few broad categories that represent the worst musical trends of the decade.

The question inevitably arises of how this decade's bad music stacks up against its forerunners. A quick glance at the pop charts of decades past rather than at oldies station playlists shows that this decade's mainstream was, I think, pretty average. We had some consistently good hitmakers (Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, Beyonce), a mainstream rock scene that hasn't changed since 1995, a lot of awful chartbusters (see below), and a cornucopia of solid indie artists that every major music publication covers. It was easier than it had ever been to find good music, it required more discernment than ever before to avoid the garbage, and I couldn't make the case that our worst is worse than schmaltz, disco, hair metal, teen pop or post-grunge. That said, the decade still sucked because of:

5. Wimpy White Dudes: Jeff Buckley, probably the best white vocalist of the rock era, once said "Sensitivity isn't being wimpy, it's about being so painfully aware that a flea landing on a dog is like a sonic boom." His proclamation was entirely lost on the following: Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, Keane, Hoobastank, James Blunt, Daniel Powter, The Fray. I've nothing against male sensitivity when it's expressed with some instrumental prowess, lyrical nuance or genuine passion. I do when its purveyors' only tactic is to jackhammer boneheaded hooks into my cranium in support of guileless wimpers of remorse and loneliness.
Low point: Hoobastank, "The Reason"

4. Female "Empowerment" - Beyonce isn't exactly a feminist, but she's gotten good mileage out of sticking up for herself and not taking crap from her men. Compare her moxie to the oversexed poutiness of Gwen Stefani, Fergie's crass come-ons or Natasha Bedingfield's insatiable avarice for inspirational cliche. It's hardly fair that she's also the best looking.
Low Point: Pussy Cat Dolls, "Don't Cha"

3. Rock and Roll Stagnation Nirvana's sudden popularization of grunge is probably the most repeated rock and roll story of the past two decades, and I think it probably represents the most dramatic shift in taste since rock's inception. And then all shifting ceased. Post-grunge bands were allowed to express at most two states of mind, alienation and ennui, and only in the vaguest terms possible. They played down-tuned guitars, they growled and they connected with a whole lot of male adolescents, to the extent that they have not needed to alter these elements in 15 years, except to add some sub-Spinal Tap sexuality. And while this is not quite the worst music on the list, it is the music enjoyed by the worst people.
Low Point: Nickelback, "Figured You Out" (yes, this really is their worst)

2. Auto-Tune A couple of months ago I accidentally heard my first Miley Cyrus song, "Party in the USA". What I found remarkable about it was that a song with a vocal range of, oh a perfect fifth, required the use of a pitch-correction program that gives an unmistakable processed whine. An entire subgenre of hip hop, not the most pitch-dependent music in world, has grown out of copious Auto-Tune deployment, giving us ubiquitous no-talents Akon and T-Pain among many many others whose names I haven't bothered to learn.
Low point, T-Pain, "Buy U A Drank"

1. Chant As Song My appreciation for hip hop has only grown in the past few years, particularly as I've recognized the richness of the arrangements - they're so much more than beats - that clothe the rhymes of the great MCs, and they themselves boast a deep sense of rhythm, cadence and melody. Of course, chart pop steals the shallowest aspect of hip hop and we get "Fergalicious," "Hollaback Girl" and Soulja Boy, tracks whose ad infinitum repetitions of short phrases sell massive quantities of ring tones and simultaneously destroy a generation's understanding of what music is.
Low Point, The Black Eyed Peas, "My Humps"


  1. Dear sir,
    You are a golden god and you need to come write commentary on a blog with pictures.

    But song and music is an expression of a small group's feelings in one point in time. Comparing and contrasting an emotion (even if that emotion belongs to a gazzillionare with a hit egg-laying goose stached up his ass) to others is counterproductive.

    Not that I would feel bad about any of the selections you've made, but you are participating in an act of destruction when you seek out bad music and "put the pussy on a pedestal". There is no comparison between musical expressions. That's a weak man's arguement. Take them as they come, and discard them according to your own logic.

    You've been bookmarked!
    -Matt Argalas

  2. Matt, I disagree. When the emperor has no clothes, it needs to be said.

    As for stagnation, what about nu-metal? We remember you never liked it, but still, it's not true that things have remained flat musically speaking. On lyrics/content, you're probably right though.